Politics of Punjab and BJP-Akali Dal

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Earlier this week, when Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal returned from a two-week vacation in Europe, he called a meeting of the party’s most important district-level leaders. When he was on leave, he was surprised to hear speculation that the SAD and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) might reunite. Simultaneously, speculations were rife as to the number of seats the two parties would contest in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections and also the number of cabinet posts that would be offered.

If the leaders of both the parties are to be believed, till now there has been no meaningful conversation between them. Both are worried and the problems are numerous. Firstly, the SAD’s political position is very weak, although the party does not want to admit it. However, it would be an exaggeration to say that the party is fighting for its existence. The party controls the gurdwaras and is accompanied by a very vocal expatriate community. There is no dearth of funds for the party. But the party has lost two consecutive assembly elections in 2017 and 2022 and currently has only three MLAs in the assembly. Its problem was clearly revealed in the recent by-election for the Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat: the SAD came third, while the BJP fourth. Both the parties got 17.85 per cent and 15.19 per cent votes respectively. While the winner Aam Aadmi Party got 34.05 percent and Congress got 27.85 percent votes. SAD and BJP together got 33.04 per cent votes.

But the SAD also has its own grievances. The BJP, once its friend and partner, is now doing it a lot of harm. Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) chief Manjinder Singh Sirsa, former SAD MLA Didar Singh Bhatti, SGPC member Surjit Singh Gadhi and Kanwarveer Singh, grandson of stalwart Akali leader late Gurcharan Singh Tohra, etc. have all been brought into the BJP’s fold. took. However, both Bhatti and Kanwarveer Singh were contested in the 2022 assembly elections and both were defeated. Surjit Singh Garhi was a member of SAD’s Political Affairs Committee and SGPC.

Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa’s SAD (United) has an alliance with the BJP and SAD leaders say that their party is also a product of the BJP. In short, BJP is continuously attacking SAD. Talking about the inside of BJP, there are two views regarding SAD. Union minister Hardeep Puri has repeatedly ruled out the possibility of a fresh alliance between the two parties. On the ground, the growth and development of the BJP in Punjab and its prestige have taken a hit due to its association with the SAD.

There are about two lakh Sikhs in Australia and their population is 0.8 per cent of the country’s population. According to the census there, Punjabi is the fastest growing language in Australia. But how many Sikhs were present at the event organized by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Australia earlier this year? only six. BJP leaders say that Sikhs have a very long memory. He has not yet forgiven General Dyer who ordered firing at Jallianwala Bagh in 1919. They also remember the way the BJP government repressed the protesting farmers in 2020-21. In such a situation, BJP can gain something even from these difficult situations and keep distance from SAD but it should not forget that both SAD and BJP need each other. The BJP has recently made Sunil Jakhar the president of Punjab state and this is an acknowledgment of this fact. Jakhar is a Hindu and joined the BJP barely a few months ago. The BJP did not give this post to Amarinder Singh or any other Sikh leader who has been serving the party for decades. SAD leaders claim that there is great discontent in the party regarding this appointment. All the leaders and workers of BJP themselves are silent on this.

There are growing areas of discontent between the two former allies. SAD is against Uniform Civil Code. Old issues also remain: the pending decision on the release of people convicted in cases such as sedition and murder, such as Balwant Singh Rajoana. Rajoana has been convicted of the murder of the then Chief Minister of Punjab, Beant Singh, and has already been sentenced to death in 2007. The Home Ministry has been repeatedly postponing the decision on his mercy petition. Some others are serving life sentences for sedition and have been in jail for 33 years.

The unsaid agenda of BJP is to separate politics from Gurudwaras. For the time being, she is satisfied with the Aam Aadmi Party that she is doing its work. Aam Aadmi Party has decided to make the broadcast of Gurbani from Harmandir Sahib i.e. Golden Temple free-to-air, which is awaiting the approval of the Governor. Earlier it was a monopoly of a channel allegedly owned by the Badal family. The BJP has supported the decision that the telecast should be on more than one channel but has opposed the AAP’s decision to amend the SGPC Act 1925, saying it can only be done by Parliament.

SAD says that eventually talks will happen but these talks will be cold and emotionless. It is being said that Sukhbir Singh Badal will ‘speak English’ and will not see the warmth that was seen in Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Parkash Singh Badal. He says that self-respect is paramount for Sikhs and arrogance will not do in the current state of political fortunes of the Akali Dal in the state. Meanwhile, BJP’s response is awaited. (B.St.)

, Aditi Phadnis

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